“I always looked at it like: 2014, 2014, 2014—that’s the year I want to go to the Olympics.”
Those are the words of student Brian Wallace, 17, a member of USA Ski Jumping who has become one of the sport’s top athletes.
Wallace—who previously attended and —started ski jumping in second grade with his friend Matt Hamilton.
“I stuck with it and haven’t stopped jumping since,” he said.
Wallace travels all over the county and to Europe for competitions. Across the pond, ski jumping is a major sport, he said.
“In Europe, it’s just like football or basketball here. You get crowds of hundreds of thousands of people,” Wallace said. “If you’re a young German, Austrian or Norwegian kid, you look up to ski jumpers—like if you grew up in Brazil you’d look up to soccer players.”
At the top of the ramp, there are some jitters to overcome at first, said Wallace, who qualified for the Junior Olympics at age 12 and currently competes with the St. Paul Ski Club.
“You may be a little scared or timid,” he said. “But you take a feeler run and after that, if you’re scared, you shouldn’t be jumping—you’re holding yourself back.”
What about crashing?
“I’ve been in a couple pretty big spills; they call them ‘tip-ins,’” Wallace said. “The only thing I’ve ever done is dislocate some fingers, but you just pop those back in.”
For Wallace, ski jumping is a year-round activity. Even in summer he jumps at a location in Minneapolis where skiers land on plastic that’s sprayed with water.
Being away from Woodbury so often means he has to keep up a dialogue with his teachers to ensure he's on top of his school work. It also means less time with his buddies.
“You really don’t get much time for friends,” he said. “But they understand what you’re doing.”
During the summer months Wallace said he enjoys golf and water skiing at the family’s cabin. While he’s ultra competitive on the ski jump, he takes it easy when he participates in other sports, like traditional downhill skiing: “I like to screw around more than anything else."
But his main focus now is the 2014 Olympics in Russia.
“The Olympics have always been my dream, my goal, the only thing that I wanted to do,” he said.
And that takes hard work and dedication. Even after a competition, Wallace said he often heads back up to the ramp for more jumps “with my ribbon hanging from the back of my helmet.”
He recalled one top ski jumper who was a relative unknown and in one year became the top U.S. athlete.
“So this is a real possibility, to go to the Olympics,” Wallace said.